Urethral cancer is rare and is more common in men than in women. Urethral cancer can metastasize (spread) quickly to tissues around the urethra and has often spread to nearby lymph nodes by the time it is diagnosed. Explore the links on this page to learn more about urethral cancer treatment and clinical trials.

Urethral Cancer Treatment

  • Urethral cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the urethra.
  • There are different types of urethral cancer that begin in cells that line the urethra.
  • A history of bladder cancer can affect the risk of urethral cancer.
  • Signs of urethral cancer include bleeding or trouble with urination.
  • Tests that examine the urethra and bladder are used to diagnose urethral cancer.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

Urethral cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the urethra.

The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. In women, the urethra is about 1½ inches long and is just above the vagina. In men, the urethra is about 8 inches long, and goes through the prostate gland and the penis to the outside of the body. In men, the urethra also carries semen. Urethral cancer is a rare cancer that occurs more often in men than in women.

A history of bladder cancer can affect the risk of urethral cancer.

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for urethral cancer include the following:

  • Having a history of bladder cancer.

Having conditions that cause chronic inflammation in the urethra, including:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human papillomavirus (HPV), especially HPV type 16.
  • Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Signs of urethral cancer include bleeding or trouble with urination.

These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by urethral cancer or by other conditions. There may be no signs or symptoms in the early stages. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Trouble starting the flow of urine.
  • Weak or interrupted (“stop-and-go”) flow of urine.
  • Frequent urination, especially at night.
  • Incontinence.
  • Discharge from the urethra.
  • Bleeding from the urethra or blood in the urine.
  • A lump or thickness in the perineum or penis.
  • A painless lump or swelling in the groin.

Stages of Urethral Cancer

  • After urethral cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the urethra or to other parts of the body.
  • There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.
  • Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.
  • Urethral cancer is staged and treated based on the part of the urethra that is affected.
    • Distal urethral cancer
    • Proximal urethral cancer
  • Bladder and/or prostate cancer may occur at the same time as urethral cancer.
  • Urethral cancer can recur (come back) after it has been treated.

Urethral cancer is staged and treated based on the part of the urethra that is affected.

Urethral cancer is staged and treated based on the part of the urethra that is affected and how deeply the tumor has spread into tissue around the urethra. Urethral cancer can be described as distal or proximal.

Distal urethral cancer

In distal urethral cancer, the cancer usually has not spread deeply into the tissue. In women, the part of the urethra that is closest to the outside of the body (about ½ inch) is affected. In men, the part of the urethra that is in the penis is affected.

Proximal urethral cancer

Proximal urethral cancer affects the part of the urethra that is not the distal urethra. In women and men, proximal urethral cancer usually has spread deeply into tissue.

What is Cancer?

  • Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.

  • Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the risk of getting cancer. This can include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances, and taking medicines or vaccines that can prevent cancer from developing.

  • Cancer can cause many different symptoms. Most often these symptoms are not caused by cancer, but by benign tumors or other problems. If you have symptoms that last for a couple of weeks, your doctor will do a physical exam and order tests or other procedures to find out what is causing your symptoms.